Crafts to Do When the Weather Outside Is Frightful

By Joanna Campbell

Snow, snow, snow. The weather report sounds like a broken
record. As I write this, the Boston area is bracing for yet another blizzard-like blast,
adding more flakes to the growing mountains of white fluff.
Even though I now live in Florida, I remember those winter days “up yonder” when we could get out
the front door because the snow was piled up high.  I can still hear the sound of a snow shovel scraping the concrete of our walk. My nose prickles to the smell of the diesel fumes that wafted
over the neighborhood as husbands vroom-vroomed from behind their snow blowers.
And I’ll never forget how my son would send up a cheer at the words, “Snow day!” Meanwhile, I would groan,
wondering, “How am I going to keep him busy?”
So I used these memories in my newest book

Excerpt from Handmade, Holiday, Homicide

Book #10 in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series

by Joanna Campbell Slan

People think that being pregnant is
all about your growing belly, but the truth is, it also messes with your head.
It’s like for every inch my waistband expands, I lose ten points of my IQ.
Maybe it’s because I don’t get much sleep anymore. My skin itches, the baby
pokes me with his feet, and the indigestion causes a burning in my throat.
Don’t even get me started on the hormones. Whatever the scientific reason for
my brain fog, I’m just not as sharp as usual.

My fianc

Kiki Lowenstein and the Penny Pincher (Part 3)

By Joanna Campbell Slan

Editor’s Note: In Parts 1 and 2, Kiki Lowenstein, owner of Time in a Bottle, has been teaching a two-session class called “The Double-Dip.” This week, her customers brought in one of their favorite dessert recipes, a photo of the dessert, and the recipe to use in an 8- by 8-inch cookbook album. There’s a bit of friction in the group because Iona Lippman and Lisa Ferguson both claim to make an outstanding red velvet cake

Kit Bashing — A Dollhouse Furniture Bargain

“Kit bashing” is a term miniaturists use, and one that every crafter should get to know. You “bash a kit” when you take creative liberties with a project, putting your own spin on it.

I love kit bashing.

Curiously, I’ve noticed a big difference between miniaturists and scrapbookers. When I took scrapbook classes, a lot of the participants wanted their finished products to look EXACTLY like the teacher’s sample. But miniaturists want to do their own “thang.” In fact, in the Fred Cobbs’ class I recently took, not one single person copied Fred’s model! We all made minor adjustments.

For me, the best part of kit bashing is that you have most of the raw materials at hand. So often when you start a project, you discover you don’t have enough wood or paper or some item that’s absolutely necessary. When you kit bash, you have the basics–and that’s your point of departure.

You can “bash” as little or as much as you like.

Recently I bought the Greenleaf Dollhouse Furniture kit.

A lot of dollhouse furniture for the price!

It’s advertised as being 47 pieces of furniture, all in one-inch to a foot scale. Although if you read the reviews, the scale is a bit…iffy. I did read the reviews, so I pretty much knew what I was getting into, although the people at Greenleaf could be more helpful by providing clearer photos and measurements for each piece.

Many of the pieces have no back, just a front. None have hinges and as far as I can tell, none of the doors open. Some of the design is pretty weird. A big much-ish. But that was fine by me. I didn’t want to have to build everything from scratch. I could start with their project and make it mine!

The space between the front and back legs on the side is totally empty on their version. Notice there are no hinges for the door.

What did I bash?

1. I sawed the top off of the curio cabinet. I also added side panels to the open spaces along the bottom legs to make it more realistic. Then I added a paper clay gargoyle head. I also left off the front doors (for now at least) and some of the trim.

Here’s my version (although it needs a coat of polyester shine! Right now the paint is too flat.):

2. The sink in the bathroom was far too big for my bathroom. But the hamper was about the right size–except it had no back and the doors didn’t open. So I turned it around 360 degrees. The front is now the back. I added a shelf inside and a door on the front. (Again, I need hinges! My kingdom for hinges!)

And here’s my version:

The door isn’t really crooked, but when I left it open so you could glimpse the shelf inside, it skews the photo. To make the kick-plate I traced the back onto a second piece of wood and cut it out. The door was trial, error, and sanding. This size works perfectly in my bathroom. I’m now waiting on the sink (white air dry clay molded over a measuring spoon) to dry so I can add the wash basin on the top. I wanted it to be one of those trendy sinks that sits on TOP of the cabinet rather than being sunk into the wood.

These might actually be the only two pieces I use, although I am definitely using the mirrors and frames. Given the cost of dollhouse furniture, I think the kit is a bargain. I paid about $44 with shipping for 47 pieces. That’s less than a buck a piece. If I just use the curio, two mirrors, and the sink, that’s only $11 per piece. See? I’m definitely getting my money’s worth!

How about you? Have you ever kit-bashed? Were you pleased with the results? Would you do it again?

How to Create Inchies — and What to Do With Them When You're Done!

In my newest Kiki Lowenstein short story, she runs short of craft supplies and ideas. But Kiki never fails her customers, so she came up with a wonderful “make and take” project–inchies!

Inchies are one inch by one inch pieces of original art. Typically they are collage art, but that’s not always the case. What’s so wonderful about inchies? Making them will…

  • Stretch your creative muscle,
  • Use up odd scraps of paper, 
  • Encourage you to try new color combinations
  • Supply you with an endless source of cool embellishments!


Lowenstein’s Inchies


is such a fun project because you literally cannot do it wrong! Best of all,
it’s a thrifty way to use up those small bits of paper that you hate to toss.
When you’re done, there are tons of cool products that can be used in a variety
of places on your cards or scrapbook pages. You can even trade inchies with
your friends. And yet another benefit…inchies force you out of your crafting
comfort zone. Think of them as an exercise to strengthen your creativity






How to Turn One Plastic Baggy into Three Baggies

Sometimes I don’t want to waste an entire plastic baggy on a small amount of stuff. But I still want to separate out my small crafting items. I’ve learned a simple way to divide one baggy into multiples.

Time it takes:

Shoot, how do I know? (Okay…)
About five minutes or less.


* “ziplock” (press to seal) baggies
* tape (I prefer clear packing tape, but you can also use duct tape or masking tape. The width should be 2 or 3 inches.)
* personal paper trimmer and/or scissors


1. Start by flattening out your baggy. I slipped a piece of newspaper into my baggy to make it easier for you to follow what I’m doing. That said, it’s MUCH easier to cut your baggy if you insert a piece of newspaper or waste paper as I’ve done here, because it gives the limp baggy some shape.

2. Now use your Fiskars personal paper trimmer–you do own one, don’t you?–and position the bag to cut it. TIP: You will snuggle the top of the bag, with the “zipper,” up against the guiding edge of the trimmer. TIP: Start your cut from the “zipper” down, NOT from the thin edge of the baggy up. If you start from the “zipper” down, the rest of the bag won’t bunch up. NOTE: You could also use scissors. If you do, be careful!

Note that the green “zipper” is flush against the top edge of the trimmer. 

3. Cut the baggy into two or more smaller baggies. Remember–Take the blade up to the top of the baggy, by the “zipper” and cut down to the thinnest part of the baggy.

4. You’ll now have two or three smaller baggies--but their sides aren’t sealed! Hey, we can fix that…
Cut pieces of tape as long or longer than your baggy (measuring from the “zipper” to the bottom). Set these aside. You’ll need one piece of tape for each open side. So, for three baggies, you’d need four pieces of tape. I used masking tape here so you could see what I was doing.

5. Attach the tape to an open side of a baggy–BUT position the tape so that it’s half on the open and half off the open side. See below…

Notice that the tape is half on and half off the open side of the baggy. In other words, if the tape is 3 inches wide, 1 1/2 inches of the tape is stuck to the baggy and 1 1/2 inches is unattached to anything!

6. Flip your small baggy over. Fold the extra overhanging portion of the tape over to seal the other side of the baggy.

7. Press the two sides of the tape together to make sure you get a good seal. If the tape overhangs your new baggy, trim it–but be careful not to cut into the plastic baggy.

The tape is folded over to seal the open edge of the small, new baggy.

8. If you chose to cut the baggy into three smaller baggies, you now have two more baggies to seal up. One (the baggy cut from the middle) will be open on both the right and left sides. Tape both those sides closed.

Here are your three baggies–the one cut from the left, the middle one with two formerly open sides, and the right one (which is flipped over in this photo).

9. And here’s the big question…what will you put in your baggies?
On the left, I have plastic “leather” and a seashell, in the middle are bells, and on the right are charms. These baggies were “sealed” with clear packing tape. At the top of the picture, you can see the baggies I made and “sealed” with masking tape. I prefer the clear tape because the entire bag is then see-through.
So tell me, what’s in your baggy?
Sally and I want to know!
How cute is this? Two emery boards in the package, but we LOVE the graphics most of all
We’ll send these darling emery boards to the person with the coolest answer! 
You have until Sunday September 1 at midnight to answer…and we’ll post the winner on Monday!

A Blast at Bouchercon

I had such a great time at Bouchercon and visiting San Francisco in general. My dear friend Camille Minichino was in charge of the craft rooms at Bouchercon, and she just did a bang up job.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Bouchercon, it’s the conference named for Anthony Boucher, and it’s the largest mystery conference in the world. The setting rotates from town to town, and since I’d never been to San Francisco, I was happy to have a great excuse to visit.

Another friend, the adorable Angela Daniels from Fiskars, presented two crafts at the conference. Gosh, Fiskars was so incredibly generous! They sent along scissors, tape runners, supplies and bright orange bags.

Angela’s first project was covering a composition notebook. I took photos of the results. I’m always amazed at how given the same materials, people put their own creative spin on projects. Aren’ t these wonderful?

Her second craft was to make a “secret safe” out of a paperback book. I wasn’t able to hang around for all of that because the date coincided with my 28th wedding anniversary, and I wanted to have dinner with my husband.

But I must admit, I’m eager to try that project now. Everyone can use a good safe!

Fall Wall Hanging

The colors of fall inspire me! I love my photos of fall scenes, and I didn’t want to hide them away in an album. So I started collecting twigs, and then I came up with this idea.

Here’s how I made my fall wall hanging:

1. Tear a piece of cream muslin 6 1/2 x 15 inches.
2. Using a cross-stitch and embroidery floss, stitch on the three twigs.
3. Add a colorful ribbon tied in a bow. Attach the ends of the ribbon to the hanging with buttons.
4. Matt two photos. Glue these to the fabric.
5. Punch lots of leaves in a variety of shapes and colors. Glue the leaves along the sides of the hanging, taking care to overlap the leave shapes. See the detail photo (below) for ideas.

6. Add buttons.

You Say Tomato. I Say Album.

To celebrate the release of my friend Avery Aames’ new book, The Long Quiche Goodbye, I decided to turn a cheese container into an album. Yeah, I’m always looking for a way to recycle!

1. Cover and backside. I used a rubber stamp of a tomato, colored it in, and adhered it to the round with green masking tape. I also used red masking tape to cover the sides of the round carton.

2. Insides. These are coasters I picked up at restaurants. I drew my images onto water color paper so I could experience with paints. I’m not very good, but I had a lot of fun with this! The paints I used are really cheap. Almost any set you buy will do better. I started by sketching different designs and then painting them. There are six inside pages, each is double-sided. The only paper I didn’t paint is the green plaid.

I owned that paper, but it was too bluish, so I used a marker and colored the green a more yellowish tone. Be sure to plan which “pages” will be your front and your back (your final) pages.

Special tips for the inside pages…

1. Always start with your lightest color of paint, the one thinned with the most water.

2. Always prep more paint than you think you’ll need because if you remix, the color will be different.

3. Use an archivally safe black ink pen such as the Pigma Micron by Sakura.

4. Make a mistake? Paste a new image over the goof.

5. Try wetting your paper and then adding color for a soft look.

6. Keep a tissue or paper towel nearby to blot the color if it’s too intense.

7. Want a plaid? I painted the background color first. Then I made stripes with a thin brush. I added a green stripe with the Sakura pen.

8. The tomatoes making the border on the red plaid pages were created with a cork stamp that I carved. I’ve covered this in other posts, but stay tuned and I’ll tell you how in the next blog post.

9. Not a great artist? Look up images on your computer. Print them out and copy them.

You’ll note that all the “pages” are strung together with a double set of ribbon. Make sure to allow enough room for the bend of the ribbon so that your pages stack neatly. Also, the first “page” is a shaker box. The plastic overlay was discarded packaging.

Do you like it? What do you think?

What do you think?

Flip Flip Album

This is a really cute album (okay, I’m bragging, sorry!) that’s easy to do. I made it from fun foam. First I cut the shape of the flip flop 3 times. Added the strap and flower to one shape. Glued a second flip flop to that first shape so that the ends of the strap were inside the “sandwich” or the middle. I added the foot. The toenails are packing tape over colored paper so they are really shiny! And last of all, I put on the flower and the lettering. (The third flip flop shape is the back cover, as you’ll see.)

The left “page” is the back of the foam flip flop covered with patterned paper on the left side. On the right is an interior page. The interior is mainly 3″ x 7 1/2″ which gives you room for a 3″ x 5″ photo easily.
You can see here that the page on the left has a flap that folds down. It’s actually a six inch circle glued to the 3″ x 7″ rectangular page. That gives me plenty of room for more photos. On the right is a page made from a cereal box. Just sand lightly the shiny side and use a great glue like Crafter’s Pick by API. It’s fabulous stuff and dries clear.
I love changing up the interior pages. The one on the right has a gatefold. So that part with the flower is a flap that opens to 12″ wide. Note the scalloped edge along the top and right side. I slipped pieces of green ribbon under the flower embellishment to look like leaves.
On the right is a wooden embellishment I bought with two others for $1 at A.C. Moore. It adds a nice texture, I think. I colored it with marking pens.
On the left is another flap. Under the piece that says Summer Vacation is a journaling box.
This left hand page is a pocket. It’s super for ticket stubs, etc.
The right hand page is corrugated cardboard. I painted it with acrylic paint. Heavy, but cool, and it adds another texture. The leaf under the flower was cut from leftover fun foam.
The right page is the back of the corrugated cardstock covered with patterned paper. The right is the 3rd foam flip flop.What do you think?